July 16, 2014

Enough Said (2013)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette

The reason I could never get into Seinfeld was because I hate Kramer. Clarification: I don't hate Kramer because Michael Richards is a racist (I mean, there's that too), but because I hate the actual character of Kramer. I did, however, like Elaine. She was awkward and funny in an understated way that was a brilliant contrast to the overacting ridiculousness of George and Kramer. And Newman. God, I hate Newman.

Taking into account my appreciation of that awkward humor, I tried to watch an episode of Veep. It was so slow I felt almost nostalgic for the laugh track-heavy comedies of CBS. This movie started out much the same way. It was amusing, but slow. Quite slow. Slow enough that I started to run comparisons between Julia Louis-Dreyfus' character in this movie and Elaine. There were quite a few.

The movie remains the same pace throughout, but manages to feel less slow as the plot unfolds and you start to actually care what happens to the characters. In watching any relationship "drama," there is an inevitable train wreck moment that you are forced to watch in slow motion and this movie is no different. However, it manages to create an entire movie out of that one premise, which is both interesting and uncomfortable to watch at times. (Speaking of uncomfortable...it took me a solid ten minutes to acclimate myself to the fact that James Gandolfini wasn't going to whack anyone in this movie.) And though Toni Collette is not usually my favorite actress to watch, her small cameos in the movie are pretty hilarious and a welcome break from the sort of depressing path the movie takes. 

All in all, this is a very middle-aged person's movie. Twenty-somethings like their romantic comedies straightforward and with young, hot people like they imagine themselves to be. The fifty-plus crowd has too many awkward sex jokes, as if they are trying to remain young (think As Good as it Gets). I guess since I enjoyed it, that affirms my status as someone who is closer to having a mid-life crisis than someone having the completely made-up "quarter-life crisis."

Final word: Predictable like a romantic comedy, but more original and subtle.

July 10, 2014

[Lee Daniels'] The Butler (2013)

Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr., and because they apparently ran out of other available, famous black people, Lenny Kravitz

Ahhh... another movie that was "inspired" by something real (aka this movie isn't).

Therein lies my beef with the movie. It's not a bad movie, actually. It is extremely watchable and has some very touching moments. Of course, it also gives you a lot to think about. As someone who didn't grow up in the madness of the sixties, I always enjoy watching pieces about it because it gives me a glimpse into how life was then and how thankful I should be for everything I have now. (And at the same time, how much further we as a society still have to go.)

BUT, it's not a true story. It's really not. Other than the fact that movie is about a black butler who served in the White House, almost nothing else resembles the real life of the man upon which this movie claims to be based. Which wouldn't be a problem, except of course, that this movie sells itself as basically being a true story. So the entire time you're watching it, you can't help but pick out all the plot points that must have been embellished or made up to create a more compelling story. (Hint: there are even more of these "Hollywood additions" than there were in Captain Phillips, which is saying something.)

Oh, and that laundry list of stars on the movie poster? To call their appearances "cameos" would be an overstatement. Most of them are in the movie for such a short time you barely have time to identify who they are through the makeup before they are gone forever. And for the love of god, can we stop putting Mariah Carey in movies?!?

Final word: It would have been more believable had it not claimed to be true.

July 3, 2014

Now You See Me (2013)

Mark Ruffalo, Mélanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, and James Franco's little brother

Something I've always wondered: With the exception of David Copperfield (who somehow managed to marry a supermodel), how can magic tricks be considered cool, yet the magicians themselves are considered un-cool?

And he married her when she was still in her prime!

I try to give magicians the benefit of the doubt - that they are misunderstood and maligned geniuses of a sort. (Except Cris Angel. I just can't support someone who is so thoroughly creepy looking while simultaneously butchering the spelling of the name "Chris.") But when Jesse Eisenberg embodies everything that is annoying about a person, I'm supposed to believe he scores hot girls on his magic talent alone?

This guy? Really? Did he flat iron his hair?

Then we have the real "main characters," Mark Ruffalo and Mélanie Laurent. Ruffalo, of course, does that thing he does in so many other movies - look sort of disheveled and scattered, but has a personality that's supposed to be charming in it's own way.  I know he has curly hair, but has the man ever had a haircut? Every time I think of him, all I can think of is him dancing in his underwear with Kirsten Dunst. And Mélanie Laurent is, well, cute and French. She represents everything American women covet about the French and therefore I am torn between wanting to be her and hating her out of spite.

You can't un-see this. You just can't.

While the movie offers something a little different from the usual caper plot, its plot is still relatively predictable. But it keeps you watching because you want to know how the tricks work. Unfortunately, the reveal of a trick can never live up to the anticipation of it, so the ending is sort of doomed either way because you couldn't possibly end this without explaining how they were pulling it off.

Final word: It almost made me want to break out a deck of cards, until I remembered I don't actually know how to do any magic tricks.